By Data-Smart City Solutions • October 6, 2017

Each week we will bring you a summary of what happened this week on our site, on Twitter, and in the wider world of civic data. Suggest stories on Twitter with #ThisWeekInData.

Here on Data-Smart, Chris Bousquet examined Houston and Miami’s use of data in the response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. During the emergencies, both city governments disseminated critical information to residents and worked with civic technology volunteers to develop apps and tools that would help responders and residents alike. In Miami, the city also collected information on the presence of vulnerable populations in order to prioritize response, but CIO Michael Sarasti stated frankly, “We can do better.”

Also on Data-Smart, Civic Analytics Network (CAN) Fellow Blake Valenta highlighted San Francisco’s Open Data Release Toolkit, a resource that helps departments evaluate whether and how sensitive datasets should be released on the city’s open data portal. Both the San Francisco Public Library and Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development used the tool to open more data while preserving privacy.

The Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society released a paper titled Open Data Privacy, which outlines a risk-benefit, process-oriented approach to sharing and protecting municipal data. Recommendations include developing risk-benefit analyses for opening data, considering privacy at each stage of the data lifecycle, developing operational structures and processes that codify privacy management, and gathering public feedback.

Also on the topic of privacy and open data, CityLab analyzed the City of Seattle’s progressive, carefully considered approach to opening data. In 2016, the city adopted an “open by preference” rather than “open by default” policy, meaning the city will make efforts to mitigate for privacy risks and release of personally identifying information before releasing data. Seattle also conducts an annual, publicly-released risk assessment of its open data program.

CityLab also profiled MobilityScore, a map tool that assigns a mobility score to locations across the 30 largest cities in the U.S. Users can enter a location, and MobilityScore spits out a score between 0 and 100 based on data about four shared modes of transportation:  public transit, car share, ride-hailing, and bike sharing.

The Gehl Institute, a research organization funded by the Knight Foundation, is launching a standardized methodology for cities to understand how their public spaces are used. The Public Life Data Protocol seeks to help cities understand the physical designs and urban policies that suit the needs and desires of their residents. The protocol outlines how to collect, organize and share data on people either moving through or staying in public spaces, either by deploying researchers out onto the streets, or with digital sensor technologies. Read more at Next City.

For our Map Monday series on Data-Smart, Chris Bousquet showcased the Urban Forest Map, a visualization of every tree in San Francisco that seeks to increase awareness of the value of San Francisco’s arboreal infrastructure and inform tree maintenance activities. With the help of local non-profit Friends of the Urban Forest and tree inventory specialists ArborPro and Davey, the city calculated and mapped the economic and environmental value of each tree in the city based on capacity to conserve energy, filter stormwater, capture air pollutants, and remove carbon dioxide from the environment. 

UC Berkeley-Haas Professor Abhishek Nagaraj published a paper analyzing OpenStreetMap, a Wikipedia-style digital map-making community that was populated with data from the US Census. The paper examines OpenStreetMap in the context of information seeding, a popular practice to bolster online communities by enabling contributors to build on externally-sourced information rather that starting from scratch. The paper concludes that a higher level of information seeding significantly lowered follow-on knowledge production and contributor activity on OpenStreetMap and was also associated with lower levels of long-term quality.